The Shallow Land Disposal Area (SLDA) is a 44-acre site located in Parks Township, Armstrong County, Pennsylvania within the Pittsburgh District of the Lakes and Rivers Division of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). The site includes ten trenches containing chemicals and radiological impacted/ waste and soil. The estimated quantities of contaminated soils and waste in the trenches range from 23,500 to 36,000 cubic yards. The Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corporation (predecessor of current owner BWX Technologies (BWXT)) previously conducted the disposals according to Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) regulations. Uranium and thorium contaminated wastes consisting of process wastes; equipment, scrap, and trash from the nearby Apollo nuclear fuel fabrication facility were disposed of in the SLDA trenches between 1961 and 1970. The uranium in the trenches is present at various levels of enrichment from highly depleted to highly enriched Americium and plutonium, whose presence is attributed to storage of equipment used in adjoining Parks Facility, have been detected in surface soils in the vicinity of Trench 10.
The existence of these materials in their current location coupled with completed pathways for exposure to a future hypothetical subsistence farmer utilizing the land creates an unacceptable risk. This unacceptable risk is the basis for remedial action at SLDA.
In 2002, under Section 8143, Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2002, P. L. 107-117, Congress directed the Secretary of the Army, acting through the Chief of Engineers, to clean up radioactive waste at the SLDA Site under the Formerly Utilized Sites Remedial Action Program (FUSRAP). The Corps of Engineers is the lead agency for this cleanup under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA), and will accomplish the cleanup consistent with the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Corps of Engineers and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), dated July 5, 2001.
In September of 2007 USACE issued a Record of Decision (ROD) for the SLDA site, and initial excavation began in August 2011. Between August and September of 2011, approximately 3,300 tons of radio- logically contaminated soil and debris were excavated, and subsequently disposed off-site. Excavation was suspended in September 2011 due to the discovery of complex materials of an unusual radiological quantity that were difficult to characterize. This resulted in the need for fundamental changes to site operations, project work plans, waste disposal options, and site infrastructure. These changes formed the basis for the SLDA ROD Amendment, issued in December 2015.
In April 2017, the Army Corps awarded a contract for up to $350 million for remediation services to Jacobs Technology, Inc from Tullahoma, TN for the clean-up of radioactive waste at the Shallow Land Disposal Area. Unsuccessful bidders subsequently challenged the agency’s contract award and filed protests with the Government Accountability Office (GAO). The GAO dismissed the protests in August 2017 after the Army Corps agreed to re-evaluate the proposals. In September 2018, the Army Corps confirmed their original selection and a Notice-To-Proceed was issued to Jacobs in February 2019. Remediation design plans and procedures are currently being developed in anticipation of starting site infrastructure improvements in 2023.